MLPA files comments on MSHA regulations
February 16, 2018
Mine Safety and Health Administration
201 12th Street South, Suite 401
Arlington, VA 22202-5450
Dear Assistant Secretary Zatezalo:
The Missouri Limestone Producers Association (MLPA) is the statewide service organization representing 47 companies with 177 quarry sites throughout the state of Missouri. We are engaged in the production of crushed stone aggregate for commercial, residential, agricultural and infrastructure needs. The total amount of crushed stone produced in Missouri is nearly 70 million tons, representing a value of about $550 million. MLPA also represents 113 companies that provide products and services to our industry.
Through the MLPA’s work with it’s membership and Safety Committee, we could like to express several concerns we have with the current regulatory framework and actions by MSHA.
First, we would like to see a mentality of “cooperative compliance”. Operators want to work with MSHA to help find issues, get them corrected and keep all miners safe. We would like to see MSHA emphasize educating operators and adopt a teaching mentality on how to stay safe based on regulations first. We feel that our interactions with MSHA would be much more productive for all involved with this type of attitude. Inspections should be a partnership between MSHA and the operator, with MSHA working with the operator to clearly explain in a consistent manner what needs to be done to keep their miners safe based on the regulations. Then after documentation of these discussions, when the inspector comes back and conditions haven’t been corrected, then enforcement should take place.
The MLPA also advocates for well written rules and regulations that can be read by the average mining employee. Since 2011, MSHA has issued a series of Program Policy Letters that interpret the Code of Federal Regulations and attempt to clarify standards. The CFR’s should be the primary, and the only set of rules and regulations that are used in determining when a citation is written.
Another issue that comes up in discussions is the consistency in inspections between larger corporate organizations and those that are smaller and may be family owned. Regardless of the size of operation, enforcement activities should be consistent. Miner safety is important at all levels, regardless the size of the operation. Too often, the size of the operation often determines the level of enforcement action and if a citation will be written. MSHA should also devote more resources to education and training, especially for smaller operators who may not have the budget or personnel to conduct training at the same levels that larger organizations possess.
Finally, there is the issue of the new workplace exam rules. As currently written, the proposed rules will result in confusion and present an over-reaching administrative burden on mine operators. First, the requirements proposed with the Final Rule, as well as the amended rule currently under consideration, place a restriction on when workplace exams can take place. Operators should be allowed the judgement in their own workplace on when to conduct exams as they know best the conditions and current situations that are taking place in their mine. Second, the proposed amendment to the final rule contains vague language with terms such as “that place”, when referring to where a workplace examination should be done. Finally, with the new recordkeeping requirements, there is no guarantee by MSHA that the self-policing and corrective actions taken by mine owners will not be used against them in terms of issuing citations.
We appreciate your consideration of these requests.